Imagine lying in an operating theatre whilst your surgeon removes your appendix - only he is in Belfast and you are in New York.
Scalpel please... could online surgery become the norm?
This type of 'remote' surgery could become a reality as a result of new technology being developed at Queen's University.
It involves computer programmes which allow users to "touch" virtual objects on their screen.
They use a mechanical arm which responds to electronic signals.
Professor Alan Marshall from the Belfast university said the three-year programme could herald a new era for the internet.
Mr Marshall, professor of telecommunication networks, said the most likely use of the sensory tool - which would involve motions, vibrations and other
pressures - would be in computer games consoles.
Gamers would feel pressure from the machine as they hit a serve in a computer
game or throw a punch in a virtual brawl.
However, he added, the medical world could also benefit.
The technology is being developed at Queen's
"It could be used for keyhole surgery... training for remote surgery," he
"It can also be used to design part of a car or a car's engine."
He said the blind and visually impaired would also benefit.
The expert said computer gamers playing tennis could experience the full force
of, for example, a Roger Federer serve.
"If we are to enter the second age of the internet then it must be able to
support multimodal communication, including additional senses," he added.
"Queen's University is a forerunner in the global race to introduce the
necessary new architectures and networks capable of carrying such
The study's title is Network Architectures for Distributed Haptic Virtual
The Queen's technology would allow users to share sensations with others from
around the world.
It is being developed alongside BT and north American
companies Immersion and HandshakeVR.
The Belfast university has already facilitated an online handshake.